‘Indie-craftpreneur’ Jill Bliss on crafts, entrepreneurship and victory gardens

18 02 2009

Design Goes Green – The first of a series of articles by Green Printer on the cross-section between the environment, business and the creative communications industry.

1. Jill, you are an artist, designer and crafter. Tell us about what you do and what you create.

First and foremost I create detailed native nature drawings. With these, I create an eponymous line of paper goods and fabric accessories. I’ve been an “indie-craftpreneur” since 2001, selling my goods on my retail website and in boutiques worldwide. I also create murals, take on custom art commissions, and the occasional graphic design project for like-minded businesses.

2. Crafts have always been historically rooted in all that is trendy in the hot, ‘green market’ today: local, sustainable and frugal. And, crafts are are gaining more sex appeal in part thanks to sites like Etsy.com, which has been described by the New York Times as a “cross between Amazon, eBay and your grandmother’s closet”.  Can you say more about the recent spotlight on crafts?

When I started in 2001, the burgeoning interest in crafts was a direct response to the ‘soullessness’ of technology, a reaction against consumerism and a return to learning to doing things for yourself. It was a new form of punk-rock, with roots tied to the indie-music scene. I started my business out of necessity – I’d just returned home to San Francisco in time to witness the dot-com crash and couldn’t find a job working for someone else. So I created my own job. I began making things from whatever I had at hand in my studio, created a retail website and peddled my wares to local shops, at indie-music shows, and organized a few local craft sales events with other like-minded people.

This new crafts movement has grown tremendously since then with the advent of Etsy and large corporate sponsorship! It satisfies a need we all have to not only create things with our own hands, but to also have a dialog with, and get to know, others who make the things we buy and use. we’ve matured as consumers. We now want to know the story behind the product we buy and use. It’s no longer satisfying to buy just another throw-away item made in inhumane conditions by an unknown person in a faraway land.

3.  From your Etsy profile, you say that you hope to encourage a more thoughtful art and design industry that focuses on reusable or sustainable materials and less consumption. Can you give us some examples of your creations that do this?

With everything I make, I use repurposed or recycled materials as much as possible and try to make only enough to satisfy demand. It’s important to me to only produce enough of a product that I can actually sell, or that I can make something else from if it doesn’t. Printing or making too many of something, even if it’s made from recycled materials, is just as wasteful as using new materials.

4. What would you recommend to a client that came to you looking for a new product line aligned with sustainable and thoughtful design?

Start out with only a few products to test their viability before you commit a lot of your time, money and resources. While you may have success with a product or two at the onset, you can’t just create a huge product line and expect an instant audience! It takes time, effort and experience.

5. Do you see a connection between the downturned economy and the growing interest in crafts?

It’s interesting to see these two things happening at once, isn’t it? I’ve been immersed in this craft movement for 9 years now, but there’s always something new to learn how to do. Since moving to Portland, Oregon from the bay area two years ago, I now have a yard for the first time in my adult life and have devoted myself to learning the art of gardening and all that entails. Yes, I have a victory garden! And this knowledge and experience will eventually make it into my product line somehow.

6. What’s next for you?

More of what I’ve already been doing, but more refined and edited!



One response to “‘Indie-craftpreneur’ Jill Bliss on crafts, entrepreneurship and victory gardens”

18 02 2009
aladdinvegas (09:30:09) :

nice interview, thanks for share it

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